Offshore, airfoils and OD action—Sailing news from the U.S. and beyond

Alex Thomson, Hugo Boss - 2012 Vendee Globe
© Christophe Launay
While we keep hearing rumors of a large, glowing ball in the sky from friends who live at other latitudes and longitudes, I’m afraid that the sun has been hiding behind a soggy blanket of low-ceiling clouds here in Seattle for the past (few) week(s).

The good news, of course, is that the local racing fleet has been getting courtesy deck and topside cleanings…the drawback, however, is the serious lack of Vitamin D. But if winter’s gloomy grind seems endless, I guarantee that skipper Alex Thomson’s final storm-tossed, ship-crossed miles in the nonstop-around-the-world-unassisted-and-alone Vendee Globe Race seem much, much more drawn-out as the British-flagged skipper tries to conservatively cross the finishing line unscathed.

Alex Thomson, Hugo Boss - 2012 Vendee Globe
© Christophe Launay


At the time of this writing, Thomson’s 'Hugo Boss' was a hair over 200 miles from the race’s finish in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, contending with 35-45 knot winds, confused seas and heavy volumes of commercial traffic. Provided that 'Hugo Boss' holds together sans incident, Thomson’s imminent finish secures his third-place finish in this Grand Prix event and also represents his first successful around-the-world campaign, despite several other attempts.

'It’s the fishing boats that concern me,' reported Thomson. 'I crossed with in a mile and a half of a fishing boat and the sea was so bad I couldn’t see it. I am hoping they will all be put off by the terrible weather and that the fisherman stay in their beds tonight.'

Knut Frostad, Volvo Ocean race CEO at this morning’s announcement of Auckland as a two-edition stopover for the Volvo Ocean Race

Also in offshore news, Auckland, New Zealand has been named as an official host city for the next two editions of the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR). 'Auckland people know sailing and know the race,' said Knut Frostad, CEO of the VOR. 'It's hugely satisfying to be able to say that we're coming back... Having an agreement in place for the next two editions is just the icing on the cake.'

Meanwhile, in America’s Cup news, Oracle Racing is close to re-launching their heavily modified first-generation AC72 class wingsail-powered catamaran. According to the latest reports, the team expects to be sailing on San Francisco Bay next week, thanks to a massive team effort.

Oracle Team USA - final preparations ahead of the relaunch - January 2013

'Everyone has been focused and really pushing to get all of the work done,' said Oracle Racing’s Shore Team Manager, Mark Turner. 'It’s meant a lot of long hours for a lot of people, seven days a week. They’ve been working not only on repairs, but also doing the work needed to modify the platform.' Stay tuned for more on Oracle Racing’s return to the water, as it unfurls.

Also in San Francisco, Artemis Racing, the Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup, has now successfully tested their second wingsail aboard their first-generation AC72 platform. But while the airfoil might be new, don’t expect to see radical alterations from the team’s first-generation wing. 'The general concept is very much the same,' said Juan Kouyoumdjian, the team’s Principal Designer. 'I would define it as a refinement of the first wing.'

According to team boss Paul Cayard, the team is pleased with their progress. 'The first [sailing day] with wing two went well,' said Cayard. 'We have little adjustments and tweaks to make, but we operated the wing with all of its controls and it all functions well. We had up to 16 knots of wind, which was a bit more than we needed for the first sail, but everything was fine and it was a productive day.'

The first ever Nacra 17 race gets underway at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami
ISAF ©

And finally, the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami is currently taking place in the Sunshine State, where 311 sailors from 37 different countries have gathered for this super important six-day regatta. This event officially that marks the start to the long metaphorical windward beat that will take the fastest sailors to the Rio Olympics 2016. While these are still early days in this regatta (and in this Olympic quadrennium), U.S.-flagged sailors are looking fast in numerous classes. Get the full download, inside.

May the four winds blow you safely home,